County council PR teams are to be cut by up to a third before April
1998 as local authorities gear up for the third wave of reorganisation
of local government across England.
The reorganisation, which was ordered by the previous Government, will
see ten county councils lose control of around 20 towns. New local
authorities will be created in April to run the towns, and county
councils will have to hand over on average a third of their budgets to
the new councils.
In preparation for the budget cuts, county councils are reducing their
staff numbers and the salaries and responsibilities of some of the posts
they will retain. The new councils, known as unitary councils, are
expanding their press and PR teams but in many cases those heading the
teams do not report directly to the chief executive.
In Berkshire County Council, five of the eight-strong PR team face
redundancy because the council will be abolished in the reorganisation,
and replaced by six new councils.
Three Berkshire staff have found unitary jobs. ’Most of the new
authorities are expanding their departments,’ said head of
communications Gayle Rossiter.
But she said there was no equivalent to her post among the unitaries,
where top PR jobs, unlike hers, do not report to the council chief
At Lancashire County Council, the centralised publications, PR and press
team will lose six staff from a total of 60. Salaries for other posts
have been cut, by pounds 3,000 in one case.
’It will mean a reduction in the amount of information available to the
public,’ said Andrew Robinson, county PR officer. ’Local government has
a bad reputation for communications and this process can only make it
worse,’ he said.
Essex County Council sees its press and PR team cut from nine to six,
and the top communications post downgraded.
At Hereford and Worcester County Council, the department will lose 25
per cent of its pounds 140,000 budget. But following the reorganisation,
when the council will be renamed Worcestershire County Council, the head
of PR, Kevin Galloway, will report directly to chief executive Rob
Sykes, rather than the head of legal and administrative services.